Meet And Greet
My recent meet and greet experience with Chris Isaak (meeting and greeting him was great...the way that VIP Nation handled/ran it...subpar to say the LEAST...there are lots of words I COULD say, but I won't) made me reflect back on the various opportunities I've had to meet some very talented artists. And as far as I can recall, each one has been gracious and kind.
It's not that I've been to a ton of concerts or shows; it's just that I'm getting old! (Yikes) This past meet and greet was the first "corporate" sponsored one, so you'd think that it might be well organized or "higher class" than some of my previous ones. You'd be wrong. As I've said before (and frequently here) this had NOTHING to do with the artist (Chris Isaak is just as charming and swoon worthy in real life as anyone would have hoped), but employees who handled the meeting were cold and the password that we were given to retrieve our photos was incorrect. (A BIG screw up in my book and I am so thankful for the lady who had tried to get photos from a previous meet and greet who realized this, played around with passwords and came up with the correct one which she shared with the group on Wednesday night. I don't know who you are, but THANK YOU!)
Now I am sure that being a "wrangler" or assistant might be a low paying (or no paying) job, but try to look at it from the other side. The fans are there for a reason and while it just might be another day for you, it's something else for them. They are not cattle, they are people. This is a special moment for them...let them have that moment.
You might think that it's easy for me to say, but I've been in their shoes...
My first experience was when I attended a concert with a friend of featuring 60s artists. The headliner was Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees...if you didn't know; and you SHOULD), but there were others there as well. After the show, you had an opportunity to meet the artists, get photos and an autograph. I can't recall if there was an extra charge for this or not. What I DO recall is that there weren't enough cars to get everyone back to the hotel (although I believe it was a motel). My friend, Mary Wilson (not THAT Mary Wilson, but a lovely lady from Ohio who I have sadly lost touch with), knew one of the behind the scenes people and volunteered my car to take someone back. I did not take Mickey, but a "gentleman" who's initials are (I kid you not) P.U. He was nice enough, but he was also drunk out of his mind. My biggest worry was that he would puke in the back of my little Ford Escort. (Which tells you how long ago this was.) He didn't. We got him into the lobby and that was that.
If you think that doesn't qualify...
I was at a convention and one of the musicians, L.J. (friends will IMMEDIATELY know who this is) would be signing cds and cassettes (dating myself again) after his performance. I had met him previously at the same convention, but a few years before, so as he was finishing up, I rushed out to the hallway where his table was set up. There was no one else there...just a table with his name on it. When he came out, he was expecting assistance from someone who worked for the convention. But there was no one to be found...and so I stepped in. I unwrapped cds; I made change (and when he didn't have change, I dipped into my own wallet, which he never realized.) I tried to be gracious to everyone. And quite honestly I was thrilled to be helping him out. Not only is he a talented musician, but he's a genuinely nice guy. When he found out that I WASN'T his official "handler" he gifted me a cassette. Also in future years, he brought along someone to help him out...usually his lovely wife...who is just as sweet and kind as he is. When I have seen them they still work together with ease and are friendly and also tactful when they need to be. Just as I hope I was.
Not all of the meet and greets I've been to actual involve a handler/wrangler/assistant. One of the very first meets was with the author, Mary Higgins Clark. It was at a now defunct independent bookstore. She sat behind a table in the back of the store and graciously signed copies of her books. I even have a Polaroid of the two of us together. (Yes, it was THAT long ago!) There was no one looking after her; just an author and her books.
More recently I've had the pleasure of attending book signings with the author Dorothea Benton Frank. Her only "handler" is the bookstore owner and she gets up and talks about her latest novel. She is a master storyteller and I could happily sit back and listen to her talk for hours. (Her charming Carolina accent is definitely a plus.)
Of course when you are fan participating in a meet and greet, it's important to respect the artist and his/her time. On the other hand, I also think that each fan should get a couple of minutes to converse, get an autograph and/or photo (or even better photos). Thankfully I've never seen anyone get overwhelmed or act inappropriately. Most of the time, the fans I've met have been kind and considerate. We've shared stories and photos. We've become friends who share a cherished memory and a devotion to a particular artist. If that's not the icing on the cake of the whole experience, I don't know what is...
To sum up: If you're a fan, go into a meet and greet with enthusiasm and a smile. Enjoy the experience with the artist, even if it may be brief. If you're an employee, meet the fans with enthusiasm and smile. You may not have an easy job, but YOU are part of the experience and the fans will remember you too. Employee or fan, make the experience one of fun memories for EVERYONE.